In The Switch, Beth O’Leary has delivered dramatic fiction with charming gusto from the quirkiest of premises. Read on for our full review.
The Switch Book Synopsis
Eileen is sick of being 79.
Leena’s tired of life in her twenties.
Maybe it’s time they swapped places…
When overachiever Leena Cotton is ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, she escapes to her grandmother Eileen’s house for some overdue rest. Eileen is newly single and about to turn eighty. She’d like a second chance at love, but her tiny Yorkshire village doesn’t offer many eligible gentlemen.
Once Leena learns of Eileen’s romantic predicament, she proposes a solution: a two-month swap. Eileen can live in London and look for love. Meanwhile, Leena will look after everything in rural Yorkshire. But with gossiping neighbours and difficult family dynamics to navigate up north, and trendy London flatmates and online dating to contend with in the city, stepping into one another’s shoes (‘The Switch’) proves more difficult than either of them expected.
Leena learns that a long-distance relationship isn’t as romantic as she hoped it would be, and then there is the annoyingly perfect – and distractingly handsome – school teacher, who keeps showing up to outdo her efforts to impress the local villagers. Back in London, Eileen is a huge hit with her new neighbours, but is her perfect match nearer home than she first thought?
(Quercus, Hachette Australia – April 2020)
Genre: Drama, Romance, Humour, Chick-Lit
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In need of something to smile about? The feisty female leads and elderly antics in The Switch left me grinning from ear to ear.
Some context. I loved Beth O’Leary’s debut novel The Flatshare – it was truly something special. So I had no idea how she would even come close to conjuring up that same magic mix of story/characters/heart a second time. But she pretty much has.
I found The Switch impossible to put down. Leena and Eileen’s alternating narratives zing along, neither being the type to leave for tomorrow what can easily be done today. This makes for some hilarious feather-ruffling and eyebrow-raising as they dive into the lives of the other’s friends and neighbours.
Warmth & humour
I think Leary’s description of her books as “the sort you reach for when you need a hug” is spot on, and very much in keeping with her style of writing. Never use a long word or complicated phrasing when simple and concise will capture the essence just as well. Her eye for the absurd in the most common of situations a delight. The wit seems effortless.
The Switch is a novel about interactions — from the hilarity of Eileen online dating or lounging with hipsters in London, Leena thinking her corporate consulting shtick will win over a village meeting of senior citizens, to interactions we often avoid and/or tackle in mindsets that are less than helpful.
Depth beyond the quirk
And, this brings me to why this novel is memorably good. Its premise may be quirky, but the underlying story being told has depth. Leary tackles confronting issues such as grief, betrayal and abuse with an impactful rawness but also great dignity and respect. It is about stripping back life to what really matters, about throwing away the excuses and living for the now, not solely for the future.
Let The Switch, and Beth O’Leary’s feisty leading ladies and wonderful ensemble cast, move you with their journeys and charm you with their gusto.
UPDATE: Great news! This novel is going to be adapted for the big screen. Rachel Brosnahan (Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) has already signed on to play Leena. I look forward to seeing which mature actress nabs the plum role of Eileen.
BOOK RATING: The Story 4.5 / 5; The Writing 4.5 / 5
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Other The Switch Book Reviews
“Brilliantly encompasses all the humor and whimsy of The Flatshare while delving into emotional topics like grief and the importance of watching out for neighbors. Charismatic Eileen stands out as the star of this witty, joyful show, illustrating that mature women need love, too.” ―Booklist starred review
“ cozy, hopeful escape that will make readers laugh, cry, or feel inspired.” ―Kirkus starred review
“I loved O’Leary’s writing. As in The Flatshare it’s easy and accessible and (in a very good way) I barely noticed it after a while as I was completely beguiled with the characters and story. Nevertheless it’s witty and makes the read fly by.” ―Debbish.com
If you like the sound of The Switch, you may also enjoy reading:
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman / The Likely Resolutions of Oliver Clock by Jane Riley / The Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay by Nicola May / Resistance Is Futile by Jenny T Colgan / The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty
About the Author, Beth O’Leary
Beth O’Leary studied English at university before going into children’s publishing. She lives as close to the countryside as she can get while still being in reach of London, and wrote her first novel, The Flatshare, on her train journey to and from work. She is now writing novels full time, and if she’s not at her desk, you’ll usually find her curled up somewhere with a book, a cup of tea, and several woolly jumpers (whatever the weather). The Switch is her second novel. Check out her website or connect with her on Twitter or Facebook.
* My receiving a copy from the publisher for review purposes did not impact the expression of my honest opinions.